ADDRESS OF JOHN PAUL II TO PARTICIPANTS IN A STUDY MEETING ON RESPONSIBLE PROCREATION
Friday, June 5, 1987
Dear brothers and sisters,
1. I warmly greet you and thank you for your presence, and I am pleased with the “Study and Research Center for the Natural Regulation of Fertility” at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart’s faculty of medicine, for having promoted a study meeting on issues related to responsible procreation.
Your commitment is inscribed in the mission of the Church and participates in it, owing to a pastoral concern which is among the most urgent and important. It is about ensuring that spouses live their marriage in a holy manner. You offer to help them on their journey towards holiness, for the full realization of their conjugal vocation.
It is well known that often — as the Second Vatican Council has also revealed (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 51,1) — one of the main anxieties that spouses face is constituted by the difficulty of realizing the ethical value of responsible procreation in their conjugal life. The same Council bases a just solution to this problem on the truth that there can be no contradiction between the divine law concerning the transmission of human life and true conjugal love (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 2). To speak of a “conflict of values or goods” and of the consequent need to “balance” them, choosing one and rejecting the other, is not morally correct and only generates confusion in the conscience of the spouses. The grace of Christ gives spouses the real capacity to fulfill the whole “truth” of their conjugal love. You desire to bear witness concretely to this possibility and thus give married couples an invaluable help: to live their conjugal communion in its fullness. Despite the difficulties you may encounter, it is necessary to continue with generous dedication.
2. The difficulties you encounter vary in nature. The first, and in a certain sense the most serious, is that also in the Christian community, voices have been heard and are heard that call into question the truth of the Church’s teaching. This teaching was expressed forcefully by Vatican II, by the encyclical Humanae Vitae , by the apostolic exhortation Familiaris Consortio , and by the recent instruction “The gift of life .” In this regard, a serious responsibility emerges: those who place themselves in open contrast with the law of God, authentically taught by the Church, guide spouses on a wrong path. What the Church teaches about contraception is not a matter of free discussion among theologians. Teaching the contrary is tantamount to inducing the moral conscience of the spouses into error.
The second difficulty is constituted by the fact that many think that the Christian teaching, although true, is nonetheless unfeasible, at least in some circumstances. As the Tradition of the Church has constantly taught, God does not command the impossible but every commandment also entails a gift of grace which helps human freedom to fulfill it. Yet constant prayer, frequent recourse to the sacraments and the exercise of conjugal chastity are needed. Your commitment, then, must not be limited to teaching only a method for controlling human fertility. This information should be inserted into the context of a complete educational plan, which addresses the person of the spouses, considered in their integrity. Without this anthropological context, what you propose would risk being misunderstood. You are clearly convinced of this, for you have always put a correct anthropological and ethical reflection at the foundation of your courses.
Today more than yesterday, man is again beginning to feel the need for truth and right reason in his daily experience. Always be ready to say, without ambiguity, the truth about the good and evil regarding man and the family.
With these sentiments I wish to encourage the unique service of apostolate that you seek to carry out in dioceses and family formation centers. In educating in responsible procreation, know how to encourage spouses to follow the moral principles inherent in the natural law and in a healthy Christian conscience. Teach them to seek and to love the will of God. Encourage them to respect and to fulfill the sublime vocation to spousal love and the gift of life.
Gladly do I bless you all, your loved ones and the initiatives of your apostolate.
[Translation from the Italian by Diane Montagna]